Most men over 40 do their competitive driving from the golf tee; they are perfectly willing to leave the dangerous, exhausting sport of automobile racing to the adventurous young. Two men who accept no such limitation are Walt Hansgen of New Jersey and George Constantine of Massachusetts, and they will be the particular stars, if form holds true, of this Sunday's Sports Car Club of America national race meeting at the Daytona Beach International Speedway (see cover).
Hansgen, who has just turned 40, and Constantine, a year older, will duel in the 40-lap featured race for the right to claim the most coveted of all the trophies for American amateur drivers—the one for the champion in the class (C modified) that brings together the most powerful racing sports cars in the country.
Advancing years have by no means mellowed the driving habits of either Hansgen or Constantine. Both want to win just about as badly as Ted Williams wants to hit the next pitch over the fence. Since they are tied in the championship series with exactly 60 points apiece and since this is the last race of the season toward the title, they may be expected to outdo themselves at Daytona. Hansgen was busy this week getting acquainted with the new Daytona course, opened last February, on which he has never raced before. Constantine has logged only one racing lap on it.
It is a course far different from the typical American road circuit. Where the latter's twists reward nimble cornering and urgent acceleration, Daytona invites all-out, foot-to-the-floor speed. The main part of the speedway—the triangular, 2.5-mile, high-banked track—was built with professional stock car racing in mind. Barring accidents, that section will probably be decisive in the big race. The flat infield road leg—over which the cars race after each lap on the track—accounts for only a third of the total 3.81-mile lap distance.
November 16, 1959
Hansgen, who sells Jaguar cars when he isn't racing, will be driving his customary blue-and-white Lister-Jaguar. It is owned by the Connecticut sportsman Briggs Cunningham and kept in top form by a blue-coveralled crew whose chief is Alfred Momo, an Italian-born mechanical wizard.
Constantine, director of the Massachusetts Muscular Dystrophy Association, will as usual be aboard a forest-green Aston Martin owned by the Syosset, N.Y. businessman Elisha Walker Jr. Walker has oil and natural gas interests in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. He also has a sportsman's interest in the racing enterprise with the grizzled, portly Constantine. In the costly game of maintaining and racing a first-rate sports car, Walker has proved to be a godsend for Constantine (and, similarly, Cunningham for Hansgen); at one time Constantine raced himself almost into red ink with a much-loved D Jaguar. The Aston Martin people think so much of the team that they have put themselves on call for replacement parts. The car is cared for with all the fussiness of a nanny by Rex Woodgate, an English mechanic who sports a flamboyant rust-red walrus mustache.
Apart from the Hansgen-Constantine struggle, the spectators will be diverted by two other races and class races, all within the big one, that should include some spirited dicing. One of the closest and most astonishing rivalries of the season is that between two teammates driving under the colors of Walter Dickenson of Washington. Competing in Elvas, Frank Baptista and Arthur Tweedale have had a roaring good time all year. At Marlboro, on the Western Shore of Maryland, Baptista was black-flagged into the pits for bumping into Tweedale. Fans with split vision will do well to keep an eye on this merry pair in the 40-lapper while also following the progress of Hansgen and Constantine, who are after their own prize in the same race.
The day's first event will cover 20 laps and include cars of F, G, H and I production and H modified classes. The second race is at 30 laps and includes classes B, C, D and E production cars, while the final, featured race will lump together classes B, C, D, E, F and G modified cars.
Hansgen understandably feels that the going will be tricky on the new, unfamiliar course. Speeds over 160 mph, which are likely in the race, are taxing enough for a man 15 years younger. But order no pipe, slippers and fireside, please, for Hansgen or Constantine. There will be a barrel of speed in that antique pair come Sunday at Daytona.